It's Pride Month, and the LGBTQ community and their supporters have brought their fight to the Twitterverse to protest the trailer released by ABS-CBN for an upcoming episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya.
The short 31-second clip circulating the internet starts off innocuously enough—you may even call it cute when no one's looking—but it tells a narrative that quickly treads dangerous territory. Retelling of the true story behind Moira de la Torre's song “Titibo-tibo,” which won the grand prize of Himig Handog 2017, the MMK episode revolves around a tomboyish young woman until she falls in love with a boy. The text in the trailer sums up the questionable moral of the story: “Ang pusong tibo / titibok sa gwapo.”
The trailer and the lyrics of the original song emphasize particular mannerisms associated with the word “tibo”—Tin’s hair, for example, starts out as short and boyish and slowly lengthens, alongside a change in fashion choices. The lyrics include characterizations like “natuto ako na magpa-rebond at/ mag-ahit ng kilay at least once a month.”
During a time when we should all be taking LGBTQ issues forward, this message takes us a step back: it's a throwback to the outdated idea that lesbianism is a phase, and that the "right man" (don’t forget “gwapo”) can change a woman’s sexual orientation. Another point that has been stressed by the Twitterverse is that the trailer doesn’t leave any room to discuss bisexuality, which is often disregarded in Philippine society.
It’s been clarified by the show that the story is, in MMK fashion, a real-life one. In fact, the story is an account from the composer of the song, Libertine Amistoso, who is the “Tin” portrayed in the trailer. Some have called it her “life story.” Defenders of the show argue that Amistoso's personal story, shouldn’t be altered.
But the issue is bigger than whether or not it's true-to-life: Should narratives that foster harmful stereotypes be given space in popular culture just because they really happened?
There’s enough information out there about the real moral of the story: that words and stories, and the ways we use them, matter. The timing of the release of this episode has also been criticized, but Pride Month is as good a month as any to make some noise.